2023–2025 Postdoctoral Fellow, History
PhD in History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Salem Elzway is a historian, political economist, and Science, Technology, and Society (STS) scholar whose research investigates the intersections of labor, race, security policy, and technology in the twentieth-century United States. His current project, “Arms of the State: A History of the Industrial Robot in Postwar America,” explores how a variety of actors, institutions, and structural forces in defense-funded laboratories, on and off the factory floor, and in the halls of power transformed the robot of science fiction into the industrial robot of science fact. In the process, corporate managers, entrepreneurs, and government bureaucrats as well as engineers, intellectuals, and workers made the technology an active force in the Cold War political and socioeconomic struggles shaping what automation was, who would control it, and for what purposes. The project provides the first scholarly history of the industrial robot and demonstrates how the American state, in the name of security, socialized technological development, but privatized its management, thereby underwriting a political economy that exacerbated economic insecurity and reproduced social inequality. His work has been supported by the Charles Babbage Institute, the Hagley Museum and Library, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at the University of Virginia, and the Smithsonian Institution. Salem has a BSBA in Finance from the University of Nebraska and will receive his PhD in History from the University of Michigan in summer 2023.